CHINA TARGETS WORLD’S KEY CORPORATIONS AMID CORONAVIRUS CRISIS
Beijing is taking bold action globally. It is going all out to turn the coronavirus crisis into an opportunity to expand its sphere of influence, obviously sensing a decline in Washington’s leadership at home and abroad as Americans grapple desperately with the pandemic.
The world is in the midst of unprecedented chaos due to the pandemic. The US has been the hardest-hit, leading the world in infections and deaths as of this writing (April 11). The American fleet of 11 aircraft carriers, which constitutes the foundation of its overseas deployment, is in the worst possible situation, as four of them are undeployable after a significant number of their crewmen contracted the virus.
Of the four carriers, the USS Theodore Roosevelt currently docked in Guam is worst-affected, with 474 of its 4,800 crewmen reportedly confirmed to have been infected. Infections have also been confirmed among crewmen aboard the USS Nimitz now docked at its Bremerton, Washington homeport near Seattle. Meanwhile, the USS Ronald Reagan and the USS Carl Vinson are under maintenance in Yokosuka and Bremerton, respectively.
Alarmed by the contagion aboard the Roosevelt, Captain Brett E. Crozier reported the situation to his superiors on March 30, requesting quarantine for the infected, but his four-page letter pleading for help leaked to the news media, including his hometown newspaper. Crozier was fired on April 2 for a breach of military discipline, accused of having effectively allowed China to obtain information on the movement of his carrier.
The Navy ruled Cozier’s letter as enough proof of a breach in discipline, but the controversy took a new turn on April 7, when the acting Navy secretary, Thomas B. Modly, resigned after allegedly being reprimanded by Secretary of Defense Mark Esper for accusing Cozier of having “cracked under pressure.”
One gets the impression that the chaos within the US Navy has reached a peak.
Jiji Press has quoted the Global Times, an English language organ of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) as reporting in its April 10 edition that the epidemic “has already seriously weakened the US Navy’s global deployment capabilities, making it difficult for US forces to cope effectively with contingencies in the East China Sea, the Strait of Taiwan, and the South China Sea.”
China is especially prone to go on the offensive at such a time. The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has designated Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War” as a must-read book for all its troops. In Chapter 7, entitled “Armed Struggles,” he states: “To refrain from intercepting an enemy whose banners are in perfect order, to refrain from attacking an army drawn up in calm and confident array—this is the art of studying circumstances.” In other words, Sun Tzu warns against attacking an enemy when it is “disciplined and calm.” At such a time, he says: “to await the appearance of disorder and hubbub amongst the enemy—this is the art of retaining self-possession.”
China’s Proclamation to America
That is exactly what the PLA is doing now, acting boldly against the backdrop of the virus-caused disorder and chaos in the US Navy.
In February and March, the PLA was engaged in a series of activities in a blatant challenge to the stability of east Asia and the western Pacific. On February 9, a squadron of PLA warplanes, comprising the J-11, KJ-500 airborne and early warning and control aircraft, and H-bombers passed over Bashi Channel between Taiwan and the Philippines and flew on to the western Pacific. From there, four of the bombers flew north to enter the Miyako Waterway between the main island of Okinawa and Miyakojima Island before flying back to their original base. The next day, Chinese escort fighters accompanying H-6 bombers flew over Bashi Channel again, briefly crossing an unofficial mid-line and flying over the Taiwanese side of the strait. Did the Chinese side intend to show that it is free to fly anywhere and anytime above Taiwan, because they regard it as a legitimate part of China?
That the PLA warplanes passed over Bashi Channel is especially significant, noted Katsutoshi Kono, former Joint Chief of Staff of the Japanese Self-Defense Forces (JSDF). He explained:
“For Chinese warplanes to be able to fly over Bashi Channel to the western Pacific at will means PLA can easily fly beyond the ‘second island chain,’ ready to take control of the South Pacific. Their mission is to impair the collaboration among Japan, the US, and Australia. To accomplish that goal, the Chinese have been approaching island nations like the Solomon Islands, Kiribat, the Marshall Islands, and Tonga. The PLA is committed to controlling the ‘second island chain’ as a prelude to securing the ‘third island chain.’”
The Chinese have envisioned a ‘third island chain’ just west of Oahu and Kauai in the Hawaiian Islands—a long chain of islands virtually encircling the whole of the Pacific Ocean west of 165 degrees east to the west of the International Date Line. The CCP, which has set a lofty strategic goal of dividing the Pacific Ocean in two to jointly control it with the US, must first put Taiwan under control to reach that goal. That is the purpose of its series of aggressive actions.
On February 28, J-11 fighters and H-6 bombers crossed Bashi Channel and intruded into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone. Then on March 16, another formation of Chinese warplanes comprising J-11 fighters and KJ-500s flew over waters southwest of Taiwan to engage in a rare nighttime training session.
By engaging in the highly unusual nighttime training within an area encircling the Taiwan Strait and the island of Taiwan, and flying its aircraft over waters to the south at will, the PLA is trying to show to the world that “Taiwan belongs to China.” To the US, trapped in the chaos caused by the Wuhan virus, the PLA is proclaiming that China will take control of the South Pacific in the near future.
But Japanese should not think it’s someone else’s business. Following the outbreak of the epidemic, trespassing by Chinese government vessels into the waters off the Japanese-administered Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea has increased by some 50%.
Acquisition Maneuvers with Chinese Funds
When the whole world is bewildered and confused by the deadly pandemic, why is China—the very culprit responsible for the crisis—going on the offensive, forging ahead with a sinister scheme to change the existing world order by force? Most Japanese, who are by nature gentle and unaccustomed to conspiratorial thinking, would find this question difficult to answer. But we would do well to realize that the CCP and the PLA both view conspiracy as the best weapon in peace or war. These two entities are made up of those dedicated to the study of the art of war as advocated by Sun Tzu, who theorized and systematized military tactics based on conspiracy. To them, the greatest victory is won when Sun Tzu’s theory of conspiracy is successfully put to practice.
China is out to extend its sphere of influence in all fields. The economies of nations around the world have been devastated by the Wuhan virus in a calamitous downturn matching the Great Depression. Viewing the situation as a godsend, however, China is making moves to aggressively buy up land while prices are low and corporations are in dire financial difficulties.
To counter the Chinese offensive, the US and various EU nations have come up with measures aimed at protecting their corporations from becoming targets for acquisition by cash-rich Chinese firms.
Masahiko Hosokawa, a professor at Chubu University in Nagoya, points out that the US and EU nations are tightening regulations on inward foreign capital investments and setting up sovereign wealth funds one after another to protect domestic corporations. A steep decline in the price of shares has made it much easier for China to buy up virtually any company it wishes. That is what Chinese government funds are after, targeting a wide range of industries that support the foundations of national security.
The Chinese are particularly interested in semi-conductors and semi-conductor manufacturing equipment, as the Chinese government’s “Made in China 2025” scheme specifies. Semi-conductors are an indispensable component of 5G networks—the next generation of mobile internet connectivity—over which the US and China are fiercely struggling for supremacy. Because China’s manufacturing capacity is not high, Beijing has pledged to raise to 75% its semi-conductor self-sufficiency rate by 2030. As a means of achieving its ambition, Beijing is taking every opportunity to buy up corporations like Taiwan Semi-Conductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC), a contracted semi-conductor manufacturer located in northwestern Taiwan.
The US and Germany have established funds worth US$500 billion and US$650 billion, respectively, in order to block China from acquiring corporations that constitute the basis of national security.
What about Japan? Sadly, there is an absence of a sense of crisis on the part of most Japanese, who are preoccupied with how the government will support their livelihood and implement measures for the unemployed after a state of emergency was declared in the face of the pandemic. Most Japanese are indifferent to the danger of the industries that form the foundation of our national security being bought up by China. This lack of a sense of crisis is the biggest crisis for Japan.
(Translated from “Renaissance Japan” column no. 898 in the April 23, 2020 issue of The Weekly Shincho)